Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Heinz edge should put the wind in Pittsburgh's sails

Helmets of glory: Big Ben and Brown head an in-form offense
Helmets of glory: Big Ben and Brown head an in-form offense

Romilly Evans expects the Steelers resurgence to gather pace against, with or without Le'Veon Bell, in this bitter divisional duel...

"Flacco’s never more dangerous than when the apparent holes in his hands are being queried by Doubting Thomases"

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers Start-time: Sunday, 01:15 TV: Live on SS1 The Pittsburgh Steelers came good down the stretch, winning their final four games of the regular season to claim the AFC North and earn a homefield draw for Wildcard Weekend. They have long been my "stealth" play-off team, that masked late-comer to the ball who could yet fend off the main two seeded suitors in the AFC for a Super Bowl appearance. So it would be churlish to desert them on the opening night of Wildcard Weekend. However, their irresistible momentum hit something of a speed bump during last Sunday's climactic win over their division rivals in Cincinnati. Star second-season back Le'Veon Bell hyper-extended his knee and, although the prognosis is promising, he remains an uncertain starter. Together with Ben Roethlisberger and flashy wideout Antonio Brown, Bell makes up possibly the most potent offensive triplets in the league. And while the Steelers aren't lacking other options, losing a key tyre off this three-wheeled wagon makes them appear less reliable and more Reliant Robin.  Bell's versatility as a patient breakout runner with progressive receiving ability would certainly be missed. However, Pittsburgh have a lot left in their locker. Roethlisberger has been in the form of his life on occasions this year, perhaps even posting the finest performance at quarterback the NFL has ever witnessed in late October against Indy. I sh!t you not. Big Ben chimed in for 40 of 49 completions, chalking up a staggering 522 yards and six touchdowns (the fourth-highest total in league annals was only slowed when Mike Tomlin ran the clock down). Every throw was pin-point, his misses either fluffed catches or defensive knock-downs. Roethlisberger's alliance with Brown is the stuff of fantasy-league leaders (144 yards off 11 snaffles against the Ravens last time out) while Heath Miller's consistency adds more meat-and-drink gains. So while Bell remains "very hopeful" of lining up, he need not rush back. Especially with promising rookie Josh Harris also waiting in the backfield to fill his Nikes - a 60-yard burst against Cincy hinted at some latent potential. Now factor in their improving defense and the Steelers must be confident of reasserting their Heinz Field authority (43-23) over Baltimore. Joe Flacco was sacked four times during that reversal and is arguably now calling the signals on a weakened offense which has stalled in recent weeks, struggling to put away lesser outfits in Houston and Cleveland. Flacco is not to be underestimated, though. He has a sleeping receiving crew (led by Steve Smith) which should at least be wide-awake for this match-up, one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL. And it's worth remembering that his championship-winning run in 2012 was achieved on the road with most commentators challenging his elite QB status. In short, Flacco's never more dangerous than when the apparent holes in his hands are being queried by Doubting Thomases. The notoriously stingy Ravens D has rediscovered much of its avarice and the return of pivotal tackle Haloti Ngata from the sidelines of suspension should only add to that cohesion (alongside the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, number three in the league for sacks with 17). Still, the bottom line is that this should come down to offensive execution. Pittsburgh may have one or two unknowns but Baltimore have a banged-up line and a porous secondary. So while the Steelers may not have all their guns firing, they should still have enough in their arsenal. Recommended Bets Back Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.9210/11 or better Back Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5) to win on the First Half Points Spread @ 2.01/1 or better   Back Pittsburgh Steelers to win Half Time / Full Time @ 2.26/5 or better Back A. Brown to score First Touchdown 9.08/1 or better 

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